Memory comes in many forms

Thursday, February 13th, 2020

Memory comes in many forms — long-term and short-term, “autobiographical,” “episodic,” and “semantic,” among others — Charles Murray notes (in Human Diversity: The Biology of Gender, Race, and Class), and females have an advantage in some of them (as Diane Halpern notes in Sex Differences in Cognitive Abilities):

  • Females tend to be better than males at remembering faces and names.
  • Females tend to be better than males at recognizing facial emotions.
  • Females tend to be better at remembering the minutiae of an event (labeled peripheral detail), while males tend to be better at remembering the core events (labeled gist).
  • Females tend to remember speech they have heard better than males, particularly when it relates to emotionally laden events in their past.
  • Females tend to retain memories from earlier childhood better than males do.
  • Females tend to have better short-term memory than males (e.g., given a list of single-digit numbers, they remember longer lists than males do).
  • Females tend to have better verbal working memory (e.g., remembering a list of numbers while answering questions about an unrelated topic).
  • Females tend to have better memory for locations of objects (e.g., remembering where the car keys were left).
  • Males tend to have better visuospatial memory (e.g., navigating on the basis of a combination of landscape features).


  1. Kirk says:

    The whole thing boils down to sex-based adaptation to environment and role. In the grand scheme of things, men roamed and hunted, while women gathered and “kept cave/camp”.

    Why anyone would be surprised at this is what is astounding to me. Granted that humans are enormously plastic (practically our defining trait, TBH), the fact is that there are still hard-wired traits that are identifiable as being more common in men than women, as well as the reverse. This isn’t a sign of inferiority any more than it is superiority; it’s merely a sign of our near-infinite capacity for adaptation.

  2. Graham says:

    Prolonged adaptation to environment based on roles, but the original balance of roles must have reflected something more than chance.

  3. Mike-SMO says:

    And, as all males learn, they NEVER forget.

Leave a Reply